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Origin of name. Where does the origin of my last name come from?

Updated on April 26, 2014

Origin of surnames

Origin of my surname. Where does the origin of my last name come from? - This is request question that was posted and sent to me some time ago. For many reasons I have struggled to answer this question until now. Here is where I got to.

Searching for the Origin of my Surname- I made frustrating time consuming enquiries about the origin of my last name and family history about ten years ago.

The way I did that was that I had a neighbor and friend who was a Volunteer at the Church of Latter Day Saints in Nerang, Queensland. I have yet to properly formalise the results.

The reason I have not formalised the results ia that there are so many loose ends that require a lot more time and effort to reach conclusion on.

I researched both my and my parents Birth Certificates with a free family search service conducted by the Mormon Church of Latter Day Saints here in Queensland. You can do that too through your local library too.

When I started to do some research on my name, I was led up all sorts of rabbit holes.

This is normal when you do this stuff. It took up a lot of time and was inconclusive as far as me recreating an actual authentic family tree. For now I have postponed the pursuit of the many remaining pieces of this complicated jigsaw.

Name Meanings

Origin of name-The background of my surname the name Rutherford in England originates from Scotland. Ruther is a river and ford is a bridge and the name goes back to around the Sixteenth century in Roxburghshire in central Scotland. According to folklore and other accounts around the time of the Wars of the Roses the Rutherford's clan apparently according to the story marched down to participate in the War of the Roses. Although I have yet to trace a clear link to that event from my family. My father and several generations before him settled in the East riding of Yorkshire around Kingston Upon Hull. My father was a Musician/ Clerk/ Bookseller and his father worked for the British Petroleum oil company also in Hull. The word Ruther refers to a River. And a Ford is a Bridge over a River. So one can assume the name origin's from the meaning of same.

If you look up a general genealogy record you can see that Rutherford is an ancient Scottish family and family name. There are 4 different possible stories that suggest how the Rutherford name originated. Several legends regarding the origin of the Rutherford name have been handed down for centuries. Ruther to me suggests River and Ford suggests a bridge over that river. So for me the first Rutherford was named after being born near that bridge in Roxburghshire so many centuries ago.

The other Stories

John MacLeod, a researcher of records in Edinburgh, examined Rutherford family annuals dating back to the Crusaders. He related that during an insurrection in Scotland, King Ruther had to flee for safety. Being unable to cross the River Tweed, his life was saved by a young man of Teviotdale who aided him in crossing at the ford. The spot was henceforth known as Ruther's Ford, and the land contiguous to the spot was later given to the family of his benefactor by Ruther as a token of his appreciation. The family thus became known as Rutherford when surnames were adopted.

James Coutts, a candid historian, revolted at this venerable legend, but to his surprise he found a portrait of the semi-historic Rutherus among the portraits of the Scottish kings in Holyrood House."Still more surprising," wrote Mr. Coutts, "was the date of the reign of Rutherus, put as 231 B. C. Little wonder that the Rutherfords have been described as 'one of the oldest families in the Border'." (from the Anglo-Norman Peaceful Invasion of Scotland 1057-1200, p. 133).'

Another romantic version of the establishment of the name was related in a letter written by A. Rutherford of Stirling, Scotland, December 15, 1906, and addressed to George Ernest Rutherford, No. 1852. "The Rutherford's are not Highlanders, they are Borderers: they belong originally to Roxburghshire. They are pure Scots, and they derive their name from thrashing an invading English Army. This incident occurred before the time of Wallace. The tradition is that an English invading force was allowed to cross the river at the ford, and after they had done so, the Scots fought and defeated them, and drove them back across the ford making the English "rue the ford."

A fourth story, probably with more credence, was written by James Rutherford Brown of Liverpool, England, April 13, 1909 to George Ernest Rutherford, No. 1852. He stated there was no doubt that the name Rutherford meant "red ford," an explanation given by Jeffray in his history of Roxburghshire. Jeffray explained that "Ruthy," meaning red, was a Celtic word. Henry Rutherford of Fairnington, No. 960, also thought this to be the more likely origin of the name.

Now we have computers of course it is much easier to delve for information about ones genealogical background. At there are more and more information sources being put on-line. For instance there is a genealogical group sort of like a community group wich has got together in the area I was born. I know for a fact if I joined that group that I would be able to find more background history of my family tree than ever before. Good luck with your search.


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    • barryrutherford profile imageAUTHOR

      Barry Rutherford 

      8 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Holsgurl757 I think there is value in knowing ones family tree given that we all operate on the forces of both nature and nurture...

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      You both need to get a life and stop looking at this stuff because if this is a hobby of yours get your butt outside

    • barryrutherford profile imageAUTHOR

      Barry Rutherford 

      8 years ago from Queensland Australia

      PegCole17 Thanks for your comment. Indeed it is great when you find stuff. The information is a huge reward. Right now I am thinking what the evolutionary effects of these long gone relatives have on our make-up now. Mind boggling..

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 

      8 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      Enjoyable read. I recently found the name of the ship my grandmother was on when she came to the US in 1902. So much of our ancestral history was lost but I'm still able to get bits and pieces now and then. Great fun when you find stuff!

    • barryrutherford profile imageAUTHOR

      Barry Rutherford 

      8 years ago from Queensland Australia

      If you go to that is a great place to help

    • profile image

      travis hex 

      8 years ago

      wonder were my last name came from? :) guess i will have to have a look...

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish MS 

      8 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Very interesting stories! Glad they did not put YOU into the fire that scorched the birth certificate. Two sides of my father's family in England/Ireland/Scotland/America had longtime feuds as well. It's not fun.

    • barryrutherford profile imageAUTHOR

      Barry Rutherford 

      8 years ago from Queensland Australia

      ha ha Ive got duplicate content for this hub maybe I have a clone

    • ethel smith profile image

      Ethel Smith 

      8 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      That was an interesting read. You are from my neck of the woods then

    • prettydarkhorse profile image


      8 years ago from US

      beautiful share, it is fun knowing your roots, it is where the sense of being and becoming is rooted and identity as well! now I know it came from Scotland, I read an author Robert Rutherford and I thought it was an American surname, well , hmm, thanks, Maita


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